Freshman guard steps up for teammates

Matt Gubbels

With point guard Alison Lacey in foul trouble and fellow guard Heather Ezell struggling, the ISU women’s basketball team needed someone to pick up the perimeter scoring load Sunday.

In her first career start, freshman Kelsey Bolte was that player. Bolte nearly earned a double-double, with 10 points and a career-high nine rebounds.

Coach Bill Fennelly said Bolte’s play was a key in the in-state rivalry game with Ezell ill and battling an injured hip and Lacey on the bench during several key parts of the game.

“I don’t think she could breathe before the game, she was so nervous,” Fennelly said. “For a freshman to be in that environment – she’s a very even-keeled kid, she doesn’t get too worked up.

“With Heather’s situation, I thought she played tremendously.”

Lacey and Ezell, who are two of the Cyclones’ leading scorers, did not score in the first half and, when the Cyclones trailed 8-0, Bolte and junior Nicky Wieben helped get the offense started.

The two firestarting players led Iowa State on an 11-0 run to take the lead back, and Bolte scored 8 of the Cyclones’ 27 first-half points.

Bolte said words of wisdom from fellow guards Lacey and Ezell helped her calm down before the game.

“I was really nervous before the game, and [Ezell] was trying to calm me down,” Bolte said. “Aus [Lacey] was saying ‘breathe, Kelsey, breathe.’

“Finally, when the game got going, I just tried to go with the flow.”

Wieben said Bolte helped the team out in a situation in which she had to come in and play as the sole freshman on a team filled with more experienced players.

“She has definitely had to step up,” Wieben said. “She is bigger outside at that three spot [small forward] and can play the two [shooting guard]. Hopefully she can keep playing well, and we’ll see what happens.”

Bolte was also one of the players who had to help guard Drake’s star players, Lindsay Whorton and Jill Martin. Martin and Whorton had been combining for an average of nearly 36 points per game and had each scored in double figures in every one of Drake’s previous games. Bolte and company were able to hold them down to a combined 12 points on 3-of-16 shooting.

“Defensively, she had a couple of lapses, but, when you’re trying to guard the kind of people, that’s going to happen,” Fennelly said.

One of those situations Fennelly is referring occurred when the Cyclones led, 54-48, and Bolte was called for a foul on a 3-point shot taken by Martin. Martin made all three free throws but, when the Bulldogs ran the same play on the next trip, Bolte helped force a turnover.

“The foul on the 3-point shot was obviously something she would like to have back, but the very next time they ran the same play and she guarded it perfect,” Fennelly said.